We mostly associate nests with birds so if you don’t know much about alligators then it may come as a surprise that these giant reptilians also build nests for their future offspring.
As you can imagine, alligators are very protective of their nests and chances are they won’t let you come close to them.
So, what does an alligator nest look like?
Female alligators build their nests along the riverbank of rivers, lakes, swamps, or ponds they reside. The nest is usually 3.5 to 6 feet in diameter and 1 to 2 feet high. The nest is made of mud, rotting grass, sticks, and detritus, and the heat from the decomposing vegetation helps incubate the eggs.
If you want to learn all the interesting facts about alligator nests, like why they build them, where they’re located, how big they are, and how they do it then keep on reading!
Why Do Alligators Build Nests?
I think it’s important to differentiate between alligator holes and nests that serve two different functions, but can often be mistaken for the same thing.
Both female and male American alligators dig burrows that are usually called “gator holes” in the wetlands. These holes are usually 10 to 20 feet in diameter and a few feet deep and they use these holes to sleep in and to avoid extreme heat and cold
Alligator nests on the other hand are built by female alligators after the mating season which occurs in May or June.
When the time is right the alligator will lay her eggs on the mound which is made of vegetation and she will cover them with more leaves and debris to protect and camouflage her offspring from predators.
Additionally, the nest with the decomposing vegetation will provide the right temperature for incubation, more so, the temperature of the nest will affect the sex of the alligators.
Once the eggs hatch the mother will carry her baby alligators to the water so they can feed themselves, but the role of the nest doesn’t end there. The baby alligators will stay in their nest for the next two years to avoid possible predators, and the extreme cold and heat.
What Does an Alligator Nest Look Like?
If you live in Florida or Louisiana then it’s quite possible that you will spot an alligator at least once in your lifetime. Their nests, however, are much harder to spot and that’s because they look like large mounds comprised of rotting vegetation, grass, leaves, sticks, mud, and debris.
It’s easy to mistake their mound for a pile of rotting grass, and nothing more, but if you do spot something similar, you should stay away from it. Even if it’s on a track further away from the marshy area, or the riverbank it could still be an alligator’s nest.
If you find the nest is on your property then make sure to keep your distance and instead of investigating that peculiar mound, call the animal services in your area so professionals can deal with the situation as safely as possible!
How Big is an Alligator Nest?
While Alligators are smaller than crocodiles they are still large animals, 10-15 feet long (3 – 4.5 m,) so it makes sense that their nests are also quite large and tall.
An alligator’s nest is usually 3 1/2 to 6 feet across and 1 to 2 feet high and the eggs are hidden deep in the nest, covered by more vegetation, not only as a way to protect the offspring but also to maintain an appropriate temperature for the incubation process.
Where Do Alligators Build Their Nests?
Usually, the alligator nests are built along the periphery of their alligator holes. While they are perfectly concealed by their surroundings one could spot them in marshy areas, on the banks of ponds, away from humans and possible predators.
You might occasionally find alligator nests further away from water, especially if the water levels are too high. In this case, a female alligator might build a nest on dry land and I’m sure people living in these areas have probably seen those peculiar nests on old trails where people usually don’t go.
What’s fascinating about this is that the location of the nest can also affect the sex of the alligators.
The temperatures on dry land and leaves can be higher which is more likely to produce a clutch of males, while if an alligator builds her nest on marshlands and over wet mud then the temperatures could be lower, in which case the clutch will consist of females.
How Do Alligators Build Their Nests?
When the mating period is over, the female finds the right spot to set up her nest. They start moving dead vegetation, fallen leaves, and sticks, to create what essentially could be described as a compost mound.
They use their legs and claws in what looks like a scratching motion to gather everything in one giant pile.
As you can see in the video, the female alligator slowly builds up her nest for her future babies!
How Many Alligators Are in a Nest?
The female alligator builds her nest by herself, and while the male alligator might be somewhere nearby defending the territory, this is mostly seen in crocodiles and not in alligators.
So, you will only see one grown female alligator in a nest, but when it comes to baby alligators, the female alligator will usually bury about 20 to 70 hard-shelled eggs. Unfortunately, only about two to 14 will survive in the wild.
The hatchlings that do survive will be 6 to 8 inches long with yellow and black stripes and they will stay under the protection of their mother and their nest for the next two years.
Alligator nests aren’t easy to spot and for an alligator mama that’s the whole point. So many predators whether that’s other animals, male alligators or humans are preying on their eggs, so the more concealed a nest is the more chances that their future offspring will survive.
If you want to know what an alligator nest looks like all you have to do is imagine a large mound on the coast of a river or a pond made of rotten vegetation, sticks, and all kinds of debris that was picked along their habitat.
For those of you who live in areas where humans and alligators coexist, keeping away from an alligator’s nest is close to second nature because the last thing you want to do is provoke a giant reptilian mother!